Sure, splashing around in the pool is fun, but nothing beats the thrill of open-water swimming. Whether it’s in the ocean, in a lake, or against the current in a river, it’s like the difference between mountain biking and a Spin class. “It brings a sense of adventure—of wide expanses and unique conditions to conquer,” says Megan Melgaard, a former pro open-water swimmer.
Open-water swimming is intense and challenging, which is why it’s a central feature of Navy SEALs training. For triathletes, perfecting your open-water game can help you excel in the segment most racers consider a weakness. Nevertheless, there are skills to learn (and gear to get) before throwing yourself into Mother Nature’s deep end.
“Open water is dynamic,” Melgaard says. “No two swims are exactly alike.”
So, if you’re at home hiking trails and climbing mountains, it’s time to dive into open waters. Use these pointers and practices.